Hawaii: The 50th State

Nearly everywhere one looks,
Hawaii offers a stunning picture.

Like Captain Cook two centuries earlier, we journeyed from Alaska to Hawaii. In our case we made a wide detour via the traffic-filled roads of Arizona and California before swooshing up on the flower-scented shores of Paradise via Northwest Airlines. In Cook's case, he and his crew sailed aboard the grand ships, Discovery and Resolution. They had spent nearly ten years exploring the South Pacific before setting sail from Tahiti and "discovering" the Hawaiian archipelago and its inhabitants, a hearty people who had "discovered" the same islands about 700 years earlier and found a still older people who had "discovered" the place nearly 500 years before that. But so goes the honors of history, crediting "discovery" to those with the written word and the fanciest uniforms. Cook named his discovery the Sandwich Islands after an Earl back in Britain.

It was January 18, 1778 when they bumped into the northernmost islands of Polynesia (which means "many islands"). After a brief stay in Hawaii filling up on provisions they set off northwest, towards what is now called Alaska. Today, in downtown Anchorage a statue stands of the mighty sea captain, peering down Cook Inlet apparently wishing it had been the fabled Northwest Passage and he could get home to his deserved heroes honors. But it wasn't the way home, and he had to turn his two ships around and head back (hey, Alaskans, now do you better understand the meaning behind Turnagain Arm?). It was almost exactly a year later when they returned to Hawaii.

A statue very similar to the one in Anchorage now stands in the small town of Captain Cook on the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, also tall and proud, looking out to sea—only in this case apparently wishing he hadn't stopped there for lunch. It seems that when the great explorer pulled into this bay, his ships were met by a thousand boats filled with islanders greeting him. Cook made his way to shore and was surprised to find everyone so happy to see him—they kept bowing and calling him "Lono," the god of the harvest.

It seems that our intrepid Captain had washed up at exactly the time and in the same way old religious predictions had foretold about the arrival of the god, Lono. It was a simple enough mistake, one that any "howlie" or geek in thick wool uniforms would take advantage of. The locals were simply fun-loving simple folk, he'd been educated at the best and had the blessing of English royalty, and what the heck, it was a great opportunity that no one in their right mind wouldn't play up to.

Unfortunately, Cook went too far. After weeks of stocking supplies and fooling around with the locals, he and his crew were ready to leave—all except for some firewood. Not wanting to waste a bunch of time, Cook, the Lono, sent his crew into the villages to haul off parts of Lono's temple—afterall, it was kinda his place. They got away with it and put to sea, but then ran into a nasty storm that caused them to turn back—a return that the old prophesies hadn't made. Lono was supposed to go and not come back.

Samantha and Cassidy "discover" the Pacific Ocean. Nearby, dolphins swam in the warm waters.

The locals quickly lost their "Aloha" spirit, events turned nasty, a local chief was killed by Cook's crew, and the situation grew even uglier. Cook kept trying to make peace, or prove he and his men were superior, but as often happens in mob scenes, one thing leads to another and the next thing you know the locals were delivering back to his ship as a peace offering the only parts of the Great Captain's person they could scrape up – an offering that didn't make the crew very happy or accomplish much in the way of international relations. The crew's final one act of revenge, however, was to have introduced to the islands venereal disease.

"Hawaii has always been a very pivotal role in the Pacific. It is IN the Pacific.
It's a part of the United States that is an island that is right here."
Vice President Dan Quayle's comments in Hawaii, September 1989.

As a family we were determined to not make the same mistakes when we entered Hawaii. Not the venereal disease mistakes, but the part about acting like gods. Whenever the locals looked upon us as gods, we quickly acted like inept humans. When they chanted "Lono," we pointed to ourselves and replied "Bozo." It seemed to work, and our tour of the 50th state was a huge success, and like everyone else who has ever visited – except of course Captain Cook – we were hooked on the beauty and natural wonders of Hawaii.

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